THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
“Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of the [political] party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.” – George Washington (1796)
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire
By EJ WickesIf for nothing else the two political parties have the whole country on the edge of their seats. The Cinderella stories for 2016 are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Both are loose cannons and both are attracting a strong enough following to be taken seriously, if not feared by the status quo. And then there’s Hillary. Generally every election has one wild card. There might be a fringe candidate from either the Republican or Democratic party or even a third party. Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, or Gary Johnson as examples. This year extremism is coming out of the woodwork.
The chatter over the social networks is becoming intense. Neither of the political parties know what to do. Mitt Romney is making some noise. Who knows? Is he the answer for the anti-Trump faction? Or have the Republicans gotten even more ridiculous than is possible for their own party to deny? Desperate voters call for desperate measures. Where’s Ross Perot when you really need a businessman for president? Where were the Trump voters or the Tea Party thirty years ago when they were selling the economy off to the lowest bidder?
The Democratic Party has been divided almost in half by Bernie Sanders. This is a textbook example of how “first past the post” according to some experts hinders more than satisfies the democratic process. For the most part the American voters have supported only two major parties throughout the history of the United States. Prior to the birth of the United States no nation in the world had political parties in the sense that we realize them today.
Prior to the Federalists and the Republicans, political sentiment and factionalized sects were loosely organized and limited to local and general assemblies. The Greeks conceived Democracy in a philosophical sense for example, but didn’t create or caucus for a Democratic Party. Egypt and China had dynasties but no real party affiliation as a means to participate in politics. The Divine Right of Pharaohs, Kings and Priests was generally the law of the land and you either had wealth and influence and the King’s ear, or you had nothing.
“The Third Term Panic (above): An ass, having put on the Lion’s skin, roamed about in the forest, and amused himself by frightening all the foolish Animals he met within his wanderings.” – Thomas Nast for Harpers, 1874
Some of the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were fearful of organized political factions or parties from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson was quoted to say in 1789, “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.” But as fate would have it, Alexander Hamilton started the Federalist Party in 1787 and Jefferson the (anti-Federalist); (Democratic) Republican Party in 1796. Ironically the Federalists or “big government” proponents were considered the “conservatives” of the post-Revolutionary era in contrast to the Republicans of the time who favored a more “liberal” democracy.
In Political Parties (1954) written by French political scientist Maurice Duverger, he proposes, “the simple majority, single ballot system favors the two-party system”; the hypothesis was that “both the simple-majority system with second ballot and proportional representation favor multi-partism”.
Duverger popularized the theory that electoral systems based on the Single Member District Plurality model eventually initiate the spontaneous development of strong two party systems. Our electoral process works through a system called Single Member District Plurality (SMDP), or winner takes all. As the margins in the districts narrow voters will often cast their ballots for the candidate who appears to be gaining the most momentum as long as it prevents the opposition party from winning.
Compelling examples of multi-partism and legislative gridlock were displayed all throughout Obama’s service in office. Ideological polarization and party animosities tend to prohibit the organic and moral synergy of the democratic process. Instead of working by the will of the people they represent in a bi-partisan or unified way, the parties are run by well connected professionals whose loyalties lie within the circles of power that influence the livelihoods of their own political parties, creating the need to acquire exorbitant campaign funding at all costs.
Since 1976 campaign financing has taken a turn for the worst. Buckley vs Valeo: Senator Buckley (C – NY), presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy (D – MN) and others filed a suit against the Secretary of the Senate and ex officio member of the Federal Elections Commission , Francis Valeo. The decision of the Court changed the course of American federal elections and established one of the roots of the Citizens United decision: Money equals speech.
“…It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
In the era of metamodernism the ability to conceal sources and transfer funds globally through electronic banking alone should compel Americans to rethink their campaign process. In our righteous determination to preserve 1st Amendment and free speech we’ve created an unwritten clause in the social contract. An American citizen’s access to free speech and party representation are now directly proportionate to the amount of money he or she can raise for their preferred “cult of personality”.
The American electoral mechanism dictates a winner takes all victory. The structure of this system is an endemic enabler. It supports the inclinations of voters to think tactically to preserve their party’s preferences rather than their own personal preferences toward the particular views of a single candidate. The Electoral College segregates thousands voters by districts and each state’s district is assumed to have equal representation by proxy through its own delegates or Representative. Each state is divided with a proportionate number of Representatives in Congress. In contrast, the Senate admits only two representatives from each state regardless of its population.
THIRD PARTIES AND THE WASTED VOTE
It is because of the historical patterns described by Duverger and others that third parties or the fringe elements of the political parties start with the odds against them from the beginning. Even with enough money to sustain a good run, third party candidates rarely get past the established failsafes for a number of reasons.
Third parties generally operate on a grassroots level. This means they’ll most likely have a smaller percentage of followers in each district compared to an overwhelming majority maintained by the formidable two. This in itself has the voters already weighing the sacrifice of principle for the preservation of their party.
A popular third party or fringe candidate gains popularity through a strong or sometimes a purely extreme message. A message that’s more creative, unique or palatable to a well polled audience growing tired of the status quo. If the numbers start to reflect some appreciation for their platforms the mainstays will always begin tailoring their discourse in line with the fringe sentiments in an attempt to justify their credibility for the long haul.
In lieu of the rare occasions when the Popular vote exceeds the Electoral vote and the fact that metamodernism brings advanced communications and more convenient conveyances, there is a growing movement to encourage states to elect the President of the United States by a National Popular Vote, sometimes referred to as “one man, one vote”. Although some call this “direct Democracy”, this in no way sacrifices any individual’s protection from “mob rule” and provides more “individual” rights to the voter than any “collective” system could.
“Out of the 196 countries in the entire the world with established political mechanisms, there are only about 30 countries left that still maintain a two party system.”